The dark world of the puppet show brought to life

PUBLISHED: 11:51 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:09 07 September 2010

Katie Masters is gripped by a Czech fairytale, for the over 10s As the clock chimes five in Prague s Old Town Square a young girl, Milena Prochazkova, with eyes like emeralds and five freckles sprinkled on her nose , waits for her best friend, Lukas. Bu

Katie Masters is gripped by a Czech fairytale, for the over 10s

As the clock chimes five in Prague's Old Town Square a young girl, Milena Prochazkova, "with eyes like emeralds and five freckles sprinkled on her nose", waits for her best friend, Lukas. But he doesn't arrive.

Instead Milena is accosted by the terrifying, yellow-eyed figure of the Puppet Master. Who is he? Why has he come to Prague? And what does he want from Milena and her family?

Puppet Master is a children's story, suitable for good readers aged 10+. The plot is framed around a series of Czech folk tales, inserted into the main narrative at regular intervals and giving the book a sense of layered richness.

As they unfold, it becomes clear that Milena's fate is closely entwined with these old legends from Prague's past.

First-time novelist, Joanne Owen, from Belsize Park, has written a spooky, imaginative story. There are some lovely touches in the design of the book - the chapters are set out as acts of a play and a wealth of illustrations make it a treat to read.

The Puppet Master is an evocative villain, who prowls menacingly through the pages, shadowed by his spooky, twin assistants, Zdenko and Zdenka. Owen is talented too, at bringing to life the settings of the book - the Puppet Master's wagons filled with dangling, freshly-painted marionettes; the goulash-scented street where Milena lives; the spires and statues and market stalls of the city.

The main story takes place over just three days in January 1898, which should make the book fast-paced, but the descriptive style slows it down, turning it into a tale that will stay with children, long after they finish reading. Some of the moments of action are oddly muted, but the desire to know who the Puppet Master is and what happens to Milena will keep the reader intrigued.

o Puppet Master is out now in hardback, price £12.99, published by Orion.


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